The Centre for Culture, Media and Governance, Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) brought together noted media practitioners and distinguished academics for a national seminar discussing ‘Media and Minorities: Text, Context and Discourse’, held on October 13 and 14, 2015, at the Tagore Hall, JMI.
The seminar was held as an outcome of an ICSSR sponsored project “Minorities and the Indian Press: Marginalization and Exclusion in the News Media, hosted at Centre for Culture, Media and Governance.
The seminar was an attempt to go beyond commonsensical understanding of the relationship between press and its coverage of minorities that had so far been addressed from the optics of religious, caste and linguistic identities alone. Taking this as a point of departure, the seminar served as a platform to rethink the relationship between media and minorities- vis-à-vis the polity, political process and policymaking.
The key questions dominating various sessions were, ‘How do media portrayals of India’s myriad minorities contribute to their marginalization?’ and ‘How do media construct their otherness, in visible and invisible ways?’ The seminar and the workshop on ‘Media Discourse and AFSPA’, brought together scholars from across disciplines; journalists, human rights activists and students to deliberate on the issue of minority, marginalization, voice, visibility and access and representation of minorities in a world that is increasingly getting mediatised.
The first day of the seminar comprised of four sessions, the inaugural session followed by a panel discussion and two technical sessions, all focussing on various aspects examining the representation of minorities in the media. The highlight of the day was the keynote address by noted academic, Prof. Zoya Hasan, former professor of Political Science and Dean of School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, who shared her thoughts on the issue of minorities and marginalization. She said that the “misrepresentation that Muslims get in the media is not just limited to them but most minorities”, and that media in contemporary times is anti-poor with a large section of the media projecting the aspirations of the rich. She further noted that media projects the structural biases that are prevalent in our public institutions. Prof. Surinder Singh Jodhka, Centre for Study of Social Systems, JNU chaired the inaugural session and remarked, “The minority question needs to be addressed from an imperative of equality”.
The seminar continued to the next day, which had two technical sessions and a panel discussion on ‘Rethinking Media and Exclusion: Is a peace paradigm possible?’. Prior to that was a technical session on ‘Press and the North-East: Imaginaries of Exclusion and Inclusion’ that discussed the question of marginalization and misrepresentation of the North-East.
The seminar was followed by a workshop on ‘Media Discourse and AFSPA’ chaired by Prof. Sanjoy Hazarika, Director, Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research, Jamia Millia Islamia. The two panellists, Mr Gautam Navlakha, Senior journalist and human rights activist and Ms. Rita Manchanda, General Secretary, South Asia Forum for Human Rights lend critical and thought-provoking insights on AFSPA, its excesses and human rights violations emanating from its implementation. Also discussed was the role that media could play in the scenario- the kind of media reportage and practice that is needed to interrogate into these contentious and draconian aspects of the Indian State.
The seminar and the workshop were well attended by scholars and students from across disciplines bringing together political scientists, sociologists, historians, media scholars and media practitioners, making the seminar a success in addressing the complex question of media and minorities from diverse perspectives.